As a Florida Condo Lawyer with offices near Miami, South Beach, Sunny Isles, Aventura and Fort Lauderdale, I get hundreds of calls from condo owners that have suffered some type of damage due to toxic mold and water intrusion from the condominium common elements like the roof and plumbing as well as damage from other units. Most people think that the Condominium Association Insurance will cover all of their damage. While it is true that Florida Condominium Associations are responsible for maintaining the common elements and are required to provide insurance for the building, most Condominium Insurance Policies have mold exclusions or have very limited coverage for damage due to mold. In addition, most people don’t know that Florida Condominium Owners are required to have insurance on their own units. Section 718.111 of the Florida Condominium Act sets forth the insurance requirements for Condominium Association and for the Individual Condo Owners. Typically the Association is responsible from the drywall out and the individual unit owner is responsible from the paint inward. That means, if a common pipe bursts without any warning and all of your furniture and personal property gets damaged, you won’t be able to recover unless you have insurance on your condominium unit or unless you can prove negligence on the part of the condominium association or some other party. The standard insurance policy that individuals usually obtain for their condominium unit is what is called an “HO6” Policy. This policy provides coverage for the Dwelling and for the Personal Property or contents of the unit. The difference between the two coverages is best explained by the following: imagine if you could turn your condominium unit upside down… everything that does not fall downward would be considered part of the Dwelling and everything else would be considered Personal Property. Some individual Condominium Insurance Policies also provide coverage for Mold and for Loss of Use. If the water or mold damage is so severe that the unit is not livable then the Loss of Use portion can provide benefits for you to obtain temporary housing somewhere else. The Mold coverage is usually significantly less than the coverage for the Dwelling or even the Personal Property. Many Insurance Adjusters dealing with condo owners will try and take advantage of this and blame the entire loss on the mold and thereby attempt to limit the amount they ultimately pay out to their own insureds.
In cases where the Condominium Association’s Insurance Carrier is involved, they typically send out Inspectors and other Experts to go in and view the damage. In past experiences we have seen these Inspectors hired by Association Insurance intent on looking to blame the cause of the water intrusion or mold damage on something that the Unit Owner is responsible for maintaining; like the Air Conditioning or the Windows. Moreover, these Inspectors rarely share their findings with the Unit Owners. Therefore, it is important for Unit Owners to hire their own experts to go in and assess the damage and obtain the evidence necessary to confirm that the cause of the water intrusion was due to a failure to maintain the common elements by the Association.
An experienced Florida Condo Attorney that represents the individual Condo Owners will know what experts to bring in to prove the loss is due to a failure to maintain the common elements. In addition, he will know the arguments to make to show that the original cause of the loss was due to water intrusion and will argue in favor of the greater coverages for the dwelling and personal property. The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is one of the only Florida Condo Law Firms that does not represent the Associations. We will guide you through the process step by step and coordinate with the various experts and inspectors to make sure that your interests are protected.
We represent individual unit owners (Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners) that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association or another owner. We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation. You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909! If you have water or mold damage in your condominium, townhouse or cooperative in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami, South Beach, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Naples or anywhere in Florida be sure to contact us for a free case evaluation.
* FREE CASE EVALUATION IS BY TELEPHONE AND DOES NOT INCLUDE LEGAL ADVICE. OFFICE CONSULTS WITH LEGAL ADVICE ARE AVAILABLE ON A FLAT FEE BASIS.
Miami and the Sunny Isles / Aventura area have some of the largest concentrations of Condominium Associations in Florida. In addition, the beautiful City of Naples in Collier County has an extremely large number of Condominium Associations. According to manta.com there are approximately 171 different Condominium Associations listed in Naples. If you live in Naples and don’t live in a Condo than you probably live in an HOA or Homeowners’ Association.
Regardless of whether you live in Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale or the beautiful City of Naples, chances are you live in some type Community Association with many Rules and Restrictions dictating what you can and cannot do. For some this can be an annoying trade off for the benefits we receive by living within a Community Association. For those living with disabilities Condo Pet Restrictions can effectively deny us the ability to use and enjoy our dwelling unit.
Many people living with disabilities find that a service animal or emotional support animal is an absolute necessity to being able to use and enjoy their home. Individuals with a mental impairment, like chronic anxiety or depression, would rather use an emotional support animal to allieviate their symptoms than take countless medications with many negative side effects. Many disabled individuals routinely face threats and acts of intimidation by their Condo Boards and fellow neighbors. You don’t usually see a visually impaired individual with a seeing eye dog getting harassed about walking with his dog in the common elements but I have heard many horrible stories of Board Members and irate neighbors screaming and yelling at people because they were simply out walking with their emotional support animals. Many Condo and HOA Boards simply are not familiar with the laws and the rights afforded to these individuals.
The HUD Department of Equal Housing Opportunity recently put out a Fact Sheet discussing Service and Emotional Support Animals. According to HUD, the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act recognize three classes of animals:
1. Pets are animals living with owners for purposes of love and affection and company.
2. Emotional Support Animals provide some therapeutic benefit to person with mental or psychiatric disability, requiring no specific training. The mere presence of this animal mitigates the effects of the emotional or mental disability.
3. Service Animals are any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical, intellectual, and mental disability-IE guiding individuals with impaired vision, providing protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.
According to the FHA, a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services when necessary to provide an individual with an equal opportunity to enjoy and use a residential dwelling is considered discriminatory. Condo and Homeowner Associations must modify their rules and restrictions to permit an individual with a disability to use, own, and live with a service and/or emotional support animal when doing so is necessary to provide the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Individuals wishing to live with an emotional support or service animal may be required to present documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional demonstrating that the animal provides support which mitigates at least one identified symptom of a disability. Condo and Homeowner Associations are not allowed to charge an additional fee, deposit or surcharge in exchange for allowing an individual to have a service or emotional support animal, even if they require such a charge from owners with pets.
Many owners think they can simply get a prescription from their Doctor for the emotional support animal and that the Condo or Homeowners’ Association is not allowed any other information. Unfortunately, some recent court decisions have discussed the right of the housing provider to conduct a “reasonable inquiry” if they are skeptical about the individual’s need for the emotional support animal. These court cases seem to contradict the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 which provides that a housing provider is not allowed to inquire about the extent of the disability or ask for detailed medical records for the individual requesting the service or emotional support animal.
In a recent Blog put out by the Sun Sentinel, a local Condo Association Attorney discusses How far can a condo go when asking about emotional support animals? The article discusses a recent court case from the Middle District of Florida involving a war veteran’s request for an emotional support animal due to his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)which resulted in chronic anxiety. The citation for the case is. Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc., 2012 WL 1051 (M.D.Fla). The Court ruled “By persisting in its intrusive quest for more – and largely irrelevant – information, AHCA [Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc.] constructively denied Bhogaita’s request”.
If you or somebody you love has a service animal or emotional support animal and your Condo Association or Homeowner Association has not made reasonable accommodations for you or worse, is trying to enforce Pet Restrictions that don’t apply to your animal, you need to contact us to discuss your rights. In some cases you could be entitled to damages and reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses.
The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation. You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Federal & Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!
* Free Case Evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.